We met at the Muirtown Basin early on Sunday morning in order for those that were kit-less to get kitted-up. I chose a huge yellow kayak that wouldn’t fit into the van so it ended up of Duncan’s roof rack.
The other boats and kit were loaded into Pete’s recently re-sprayed shiny white van and then Lynn, Scott and I loaded ourselves into Duncan’s car and off we went.
The others (White Van Man [also know as Pete, Ed.], Andreas, Simon) by some mysterious force of van dynamics managed to arrive at the launch site before us despite not overtaking us on route. How strange! It could be explained by our car avoiding the plethora of suicidal pheasants and stopping for the ritual sacrifice of a deer to appease the River Gods!
John, Steph and Dave were awaiting us at the Spey. Shuttles completed, we were soon on the water practicing breaking in and out of the current and getting warmed up ready for the off.
The trip started off pretty sedately with little by way of incident or difficulty. This was just as well since this was only my second river outing since doing my 2 Star award last autumn. Then the first bumpy part of the river arrived. Dave led the way followed by Donald, Donald, Donald, Donald, Donald and Donald. Clearly Dave’s not a guy that’s good with names!
Confidence rose as I successfully negotiated this section of the river. Then as I manoeuvred my banana boat into the bank to join the others the River Gods rose up and tipped me in. Racing through my head I was thinking ‘Don’t panic, you’ve rolled in the pool for the last three months’ so I got in position and tried, and failed. So I tried again, and failed. Then I panicked and extricated myself from the boat, getting soaked in the process. Not fun.
With me sorted out, we carried on downriver. Some of the guys played in some stoppers and waves. The River Gods were clearly getting annoyed by this and proceeded to pick Simon for the next dunking.
Next was the Washing Machine – a fearsome looking rapid where the river drops about 10 feet over large white waves and is very fast. It’s also the biggest feature on the Spey as I overheard Dave saying to Donald (?) My confidence, and body temperature, being lower than normal meant I chickened out of tackling this part of the river and contented myself with a brief David Bailey moment with Lynn’s camera – the photos should be on this website if any are up to scratch. Then lunch, which included the Easter chocolate selection boxes that Simon had kindly distributed in the scout car park. And watching some crazy fools descending the same rapids in open boats.
After lunch, and warm clothing from Pete, I was feeling much better. The fact I was starting to feel parts of my body at all was a welcome bonus. The river was much more pleasant after this and, apart from the regular grounding on submerged rocks, was enjoyable. Around Knockando we encountered another bumpy bit of river. John buddy-ed up with me and led me through this part showing me the best line to take. Another part of the river negotiated I steered into an eddy where the others were waiting. At this point the River Gods sensed my smug air of satisfaction and in I went. Another failed roll, coupled with my bloody-mindedness not to go swimming again, meant a successful Eskimo rescue courtesy of Andreas.
Then, the final stretch. This was as hairy as anything I’d attempted all day. Again, John showed me the way. Arm and face muscles tense with concentration, coupled with my determination not to post a Personal Worst and go in for a third time, resulted in me paddling all the way through to the end unscathed and dry.
Pleased? I beat the River Gods (for now) and am delighted!
Now then, when’s the next Grade 2 trip?
PS - With some van-timewarp shenanigans going on again, Pete arrived back at the scout hut before us despite leaving yonks after us.